SCOTT CITY — The streets surrounding Scott City Park, the fleeting home of the Whimmydiddle Arts & Crafts Fair, were stuffed Saturday.
Blocks of residential neighborhoods were lined with cars, several spilling into nearby commercial parking lots, or lining shopping centers down the street. The crowds consumed a section of the city, said Annette Orr, one of the fair’s coordinators.
“Everyone's gone in a day. It’s amazing. They come Friday and they leave Saturday,” Orr said.
Two hundred and seventy-six vendors from Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado Missouri and more, including about 40 setting up shop at the fair for the first time, sat in tents at the park, Orr said.
One of those newcomers was Reed Sperry of Homemade Creations, a quirky brand of outdoor decor from Mulvane, featuring American flags made of interlocking baseball bats and oversized school rulers. He said he and his family had come to the fair as spectators before and used the fair partially as a way to come visit old friends.
Joshua Phelps of the family business The Barnyard, out of Abilene, said he and his wife had heard most things about Whimmydiddle on the fly, not fully understanding its scope until the day before.
Michael Winter, owner of Inspirational Creations in Greeley, Colo., was also new to the fair, and the winner of its Best Booth Award for his intricate polished wood and metalworking pieces. It wasn’t only Winter’s first time at Whimmydiddle, but his first time at a craft fair or art show, period.
A knee surgery grounded Winter from his former carpentry work, putting him on the path of an artistic wood and metal worker, he said. Four years into his craft, he’s now taking it up full-time, opposed to many vendors who work on the side. As a recovering drug addict, he said, he’s given back to organizations like Narcotics Anonymous.
“This is what I want to do for my life … I don’t have a problem in the world when I’m doing woodworking. You know how life is at times. It throws you curveballs. When I’m doing woodworking, it’s like I’m at peace with everything,” he said.
His next step: asking his weathered fellow vendors where he should go next.
The fair was rife with veteran vendors. The owner of Goddy’s Candies in Wichita had been to the festival for nearly 25 years, showing off and selling a host of hobbies throughout the years, from soap to candles to this year, homemade chocolate.
With five walls of art hung in custom wooden frames and a spattering of handmade tables, chests and lamps, Steve Ellsworth of Oak Reflections in Longview, Texas, had essentially constructed an outdoor living room in one corner of the park, the beginnings of an especially rustic study for prospective buyers. Ellsworth said he had first come to the fair about 17 years ago after hearing about it through word of mouth and stayed due to its size.
“A lot of it’s real unique,” Ellsworth said of the other vendors’ products. “I think that’s what keeps people coming back because everything is so unique and you can’t buy it just anywhere.”
Despite chilly temperature and cloudy skies, bundled up visitors from nearby towns, counties and states buzzed through an assortment of booths.
The visitors also came from all over, and many had been coming for decades. Sharon Ford and Corrine Adams of Garden City have joined their friends and former neighbors at the fair for over 20 years. Sisters Tawna Miller and Sheri Loy of Garden City and Leoti, respectively, have come to the fair for over 20 years, originally with their late mother, and now with extended family.
Leah Shapland of Dighton has been coming since she was in high school.
“Everybody goes to Whimmydiddle...” she said. “It’s kind of neat to see because not a lot of people realize what’s out in southwest Kansas.”
Bags or boxes in hand, they walked back to their cars, or tried in vain to maneuver bulky furniture into truck beds and car trunks.
Hours, days and weeks later, when vendors and guests will be long gone, Orr said the city will still feel their impact. All proceeds from the fair go back into the community, she said — to the schools, Russell Child Development Center and other philanthropic organizations.
“I love it. That’s why I’m in,” Orr said. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it. It’s fun to give the money away.”
Contact Amber Friend at firstname.lastname@example.org.